It's been a busy fall in the arid deserts of Utah with more than an anticipated amount of rain. At one point, we had five straight days without seeing the sun. After nearly four months of continual blue skies most everyone was pleasantly surprised, if not welcoming, of so much moisture over such a brief amount of time. I found myself busying around trying to get produce picked, vines cleared away and dead flowers cut back or pulled up. I mowed my grass, which will have to be done again before the snow falls, and finally put all my lawn furniture and garden ornaments in the shed. There has been nothing to do outside since then but wait for the more inclement weather to come.
However as is quite normal here, or so I've been told since I've only lived in the state for six years, a revival of glorious fall weather often happens after the first serious frost. It takes that initial shot of freezing temperatures to turn the leaves the brilliant shades of gold, burgundy and brown that are usually associated with states like Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. And I have certainly enjoyed watching them fall from the trees and listening to them crackle under my feet as I walk down the sidewalks to church or visit more homebound neighbors.
But their presence has kicked off my usual round of melancholia that always surfaces when the days become shorter and the nights so much longer. I already refuse to drive after dark unless it is necessary. And the ice and snow-covered roads literally fill me with dread since our freeway system connecting the two towns I most often travel between have been in a constant state of construction for the past three years. I never know what I might run into, like the semi-truck driver in front of me last week who had a blowout and fragments of his tire were swirling through the air everywhere. I managed to miss the larger pieces of black debris but heard several thuds against the front window and roof of my car before he was able to move to the side of the road and pull to a stop.
I know more of those unnerving experiences are on the way since most Utah drivers seem to believe they are the only ones on the road. Perhaps it's my age, but I'm ready to stay in the slow lane until spring because there's less likelihood of becoming involved in an accident. The coming cold and gloomy days also mean a dramatic change in my activity level since I have no interest in becoming a slave to some gym, and any major movement will be confined to walking around the house, getting on my stationary bike and waiting for the next snowfall so I can start shoveling before some kindly friend beats me to it.
Housework also becomes more of a chore without much sun, and I tend to put it off unless I know company is coming, can actually see the dust on the glass or wood surfaces or notice that the floors need more than a simple sweeping or vacuuming. Bathrooms and kitchens are a different story since I hate clutter and like the rooms where I take care of my cooking and most intimate business sparkling clean and sanitized.
Since this time of year brings with it countless more hours when I have less important things to do than during the warmer months, and the lack of sunlight strips me of most of the energy I manage to acquire, I find myself feeling like I've lost my rudder. Nothing sounds more satisfying than hibernating with good books, warm blankets and bowls of the most decadent goodies. Sound familiar to anyone else? But excessive indulgence in anything is unhealthy, and I don't want to be left with more regrets than usual when spring arrives again. That's why I force myself to stay busy.
I never sleep late, mostly because my back and joints don't like it, and I try to fill the morning with productivity knowing that by three in the afternoon I won't be good for much besides relaxing with a book or watching reruns of my favorite programs on DVD. I don't have cable or satellite TV because there are so few programs I feel are worth watching. It's just another thing that gives my age away. The amount of violence, profanity and sex that most people find entertaining leaves me cold, as do large gatherings of people since I'm more introspective than outgoing in nature and seldom have more than a few things to say.
Nonetheless, I still find serious self-reflection onerous and often frightening because I like to remain in control. Painful life experiences have kept me from letting more than a select few into my heart and soul. I can write about feelings in a fictional way, but heaven forbid that I would actually have to tell someone how I really feel. It has been my experience that no one really cares, even the ones who should.
That's why when I read this Facebook post a week or so ago it gave me something a little different to think about. I have always thought of life as being a test that I would ultimately end up passing or failing when I met my maker. The idea of becoming fascinated me because I was reminded that life isn't always black or white, and all choices aren't entirely right or wrong. We're here to become what God meant for us to be. And each life, with its ensuing challenges and joy, was tailor-made for the individual. When we think we're falling apart, we are really just taking another step in a very personal journey.
Me: Hey God, I'm falling apart. Can you put me back together?
God: I would rather not.
God: Because you aren't a puzzle.
Me: What about all of the pieces of my life that are falling down onto the ground?
God: Let them stay there for a while. They fell off for a reason. Take some time and decide if you need any of those pieces back.
Me: You don't understand! I'm breaking down!
God: No - you don't understand. You are breaking through. What you are feeling are just growing pains. You are shedding the things and the people in your life that are holding you back. You aren't falling apart. You are falling into place. Relax. Take some deep breaths and allow those things you don't need anymore to fall off of you. Quit holding onto the pieces that don't fit you anymore. Let them fall off. Let them go.
Me: Once I start doing that, what will be left of me?
God: Only the very best pieces.
Me: But I'm scared of change.
God: I keep telling you - YOU AREN'T CHANGING!! YOU ARE BECOMING!
Me: Becoming who?
God: Becoming who I created you to be! A person of light and love and charity and hope and courage and joy and mercy and grace and compassion. I made you for more than the shallow pieces you have decided to adorn yourself with that you cling to with such greed and fear. Let those things fall off. I love you! Don't change! . . . Become! Become! Become who I made you to be. I'm going to keep telling you this until you remember it.
Me: There goes another piece.
God: Yep. Let it be.
Me: So, I'm not broken?
God: Of course Not! - but you are breaking like the dawn. It's a new day. Become!!!
~Author John Roedel
Pretty powerful stuff if you really think about it. Letting go of all the weighty matters that consume so much of our time and energy will make room for something far more beneficial for everyone. Think I will frame it and hang it on my fridge because I'm going to need the reminder as I head into another winter. Maybe I can dispel some of the gloom I anticipate by replacing it with more light before it has time to settle. What knows what I might become by spring?